Since I was 18, I have been a member of a women's group. I meet with this group most every week. I have met with them in Virginia, in Utah, in Colorado, in Belgium, in France. When we meet together, we talk and hear lessons about all kinds of things. Like how to...
Improve your relationships
Manage your time
Avoid fighting in your home
Reach out to other people
Accept other people's service
Feel more satisfied with your life
Be more optimistic
Conquer negative traits like spite, envy, bitterness, and grudge-holding
Develop positive traits like compassion, mercy, patience, and joy
Both times after I gave birth, women from this group willingly brought me meals for over a week--and I'm talking good stuff, like honey-lime chicken enchiladas and thick, luscious beet burgers. When my children and I are sick, women from this group text me and ask after me, pick up tissues and medicine from the store, bring me jars and jars of home-made applesauce and big pans of from-scratch lasagna.
A friend of mine from this group recently gave birth. Her husband had to be away her entire due month on mandatory military training. Her mother was going to come, but not until pretty close to the due date. My friend was not alone though. Women from our group watched my friend's toddler daughter, drove my friend to the hospital, stayed with her through her awesome natural birth, spent time with her in the hospital, brought meal after meal to her home and have kept in touch with her, asking after her every need. No one in this sisterhood is ever alone in any experience.
Women in this group are all intertwined in little teaching groups, so each woman will have friends that come and talk with her once a month and connect with her about whatever is going on in her life and make sure she's doing well. Each unit of this group has organized, loving leadership that is very aware of everyone's well-being. If a woman in this group has a family emergency, help will come. If a woman in this group is having an emotional crisis, help will come. If a woman in this group moves to a new city and needs to find a job, find an apartment, move furniture, or just make new friends, help will come.
Aside from the powerful support network for day-to-day life, this women's group regularly puts on events. Lavish dinners, classes about every subject under the sun, women's conferences with brilliant, inspiring speakers. There is normally babysitting provided on-site as well. Normally, being in a group like this would cost money, and then events would cost even more money. But being in this group is completely free. The events are all completely free. Even the on-site babysitting.
What is this group--this wondrous group that gives me friendship, guidance, and peace-of-mind every day of my life?
If you're Mormon, you already know. If you are not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, let me tell you about the Relief Society.
The Relief Society meets at least once a week, in the final hour of the regular Sunday church meeting. There is a lesson and discussion. About twice a month, there will be other Relief Society meetings during the week or maybe on Saturday mornings. Those could be classes or mini-conferences or dinners or parties--but there is always an educating, enriching aspect to it. It is never just women getting together to endlessly chat or gossip. The Relief Society is a worldwide sisterhood, and I feel increasingly in awe of the privilege I have to be a part of it.
Seriously, what woman gets to meet in a big group with only other women every week and discuss deep spiritual matters? What woman gets to relate to her peers, give counsel to her juniors, and hear wisdom from her seniors in a lovely, organized setting once a month, let alone at least once a week? What woman knows that wherever she lives, wherever she travels, wherever she moves to, there will be sisters just waiting to love her, know her, and serve her?
There are many, many women in this world who are alone--utterly alone. It cuts me deeply, because I know what they could have.
It is a marvelous thing, and I know to my core that the Relief Society is an integral part of God's true church on the earth. The Relief Society is a gift from our Heavenly Father to all of his daughters, all around the world. We believe that organized groups for women existed in Christ's church anciently, and that having a vibrant, orderly system of service and love for women (and for men--it's called the priesthood, and it mirrors the Relief Society beautifully, but that's another story) is a clear indicator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints truly being the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father does not leave his daughters in the dust. He ties us together so that through our efforts in sisterhood, we might all become more like our Heavenly Mother.